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Middle East
US contractor freed in Iraq
Interpreter abducted in January heading home after release, Pentagon says.
Last Modified: 28 Mar 2010 14:43 GMT
Salomi appeared in a  hostage video released in February. He was released on Thursday. [AFP] 

A US military contractor who was apparently kidnapped in Iraq in January was released last week, the Pentagon has said.

Issa Salomi, a 60-year-old Iraqi-American interpreter working with the US army in Baghdad, disappeared on January 23.

The AFP news agency reported on Sunday, quoting a spokesman for a Shia Muslim group calling itself Asaib Ahl al-Haq, or the League of the Righteous, that Salomi was released according to a deal with the US army.

'[He was freed in return for the] release of several of our leaders who were in US and Iraqi custody," the spokesman said.

"Salomi is in good health and he was not hurt during the captivity period."

Prisoner swap

The US defence department announced in an earlier statement that Salomi had been returned to US military control on March 25.

A US military spokesman in Iraq declined to comment to AFP about the kidnappers' claims of a deal involving a prisoner swap.

The Asaib Ahl al-Haq group had issued a videoon February 6 purportedly showing Salomi demanding the release of Iraqi detainees who had "resisted occupation".

In the video, Salomi called for the prosecution of employees of Blackwater, the US security contractor since renamed as Xe Services, for the killing of unarmed Iraqi civilians in 2007.

He also called for a full and immediate withdrawal of US troops from Iraq.

Family relieved

Salomi's family were told by Pentagon officials on Thursday that he was safe, but were asked to make no public announcement until Saturday.

His wife, Mura, said she was expecting to be reunited with her husband within a week.

"I didn't think he'd be alive," she said. "I can't wait to hug him and put him in my arms."

Salomi, who fled Iraq days before US forces invaded for the first Gulf War in 1991, returned in 2007 to work as an interpreter.

The interpreter's kidnapping was the first of a foreigner in Iraq since Peter Moore, a British computer expert, and his four bodyguards were seized by Asaib Ahl al-Haq in May 2007.

Moore was released last yearbut three of the bodyguards have been confirmed dead, and the fourth is still missing.

Source:
Agencies
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